COUNCILLORS have expressed concern that the bus services will continue to deteriorate after plans to merge existing routes were confirmed.

Reading Buses is set to combine the Lower Earley 19 and Pink 22 routes as part of cost-cutting measures following a public consultation.

Campaigners have already branded the current service as being unfit for purpose after the 19a/c routes were axed by the bus company and replaced with the new Route 12.

Earley Town Council met last month to voice their concerns and have suggested the decision will not work after the old Route 20 - which covered a similar area - failed to provide a reliable service and was promptly abandoned.

A spokesman for the town council said: "Route 20 had followed the same route, but due to traffic issues, the failure to run a reliable service and keep to the timetable had resulted in withdrawal of the service.

"Considering the increase in the volume of traffic in Reading over the years, it could result in this service suffering the same fate.

"The recent Route 12 timetable changes have already resulted in a reduced number of buses to Earley and Lower Earley, especially during the rush hour period and councillors are concerned that this new timetabling could result in a further reduction of bus services to the area."

A public meeting was held at The Oakwood Centre in November and Earley councillors were optimistic about saving the service at the time.

The decision to pull the 19a/c routes came after Wokingham Borough Council increased funding to Reading Buses from £100,000 to £144,500.

Martijn Gilbert, CEO of Reading Buses, explained that the decision was made because the company was losing money on the service.

A spokesman for Reading Buses added: "We can confirm that the route will be combined with Caversham Heights service 22, but with a revised timetable to help with reliable operation.

"There will be no fundamental changes to the service received by customers on the traditional 19b route, therefore this is not a matter that the company would run a consultation on.

"Reading Buses is working hard to sustain the operation of marginal services such as the 22 and 19 and in the current economic climate this sort of efficiency is essential in the company being able to maintain a service on these routes.

"The company will do all it can to monitor the punctual and reliable operation of the combined route and exercise operational controls to address any major issues when operations are live."